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February 10, 2021

Recruiters as ‘Smarketers’: The End of Cold Calling and LinkedIn Laziness

Most recruiters understand the importance of LinkedIn. Many in fact live on the platform. But a large chunk aren’t there as particularly active members – they are more often found hiding in the shadows, wandering out to tap prospects on the shoulder before scurrying back to the darkness again.

LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool. It can make a recruiter more visible and more trustworthy, and on a broader scale it can secure the future of both them and their company. But the majority of recruiters aren’t realizing even a small fraction of that power, a fact that has been laid bare during the challenges and disruptions of the last 12 months.

Recruiters can no longer think of themselves simply as recruiters. They are salespeople. They are marketers. They are teachers, agents, and thought leaders. And while this might all sound overwhelming, a good recruiter can wear all of these hats quite comfortably if they are willing to use technology to adapt.


Why recruiters need to be ‘smarketers’

Sales teams and marketing teams need each other, though this mutual dependence has historically resulted in what might politely be called a love-hate relationship – one in which they work against each other as much as with each other. But a new breed of professional is set to change that: the smarketer.

Recruiters being salespeople, recruiting and marketing are also inextricably linked. In a world where you compete not just with the firms around the corner, but those in the next city, state, or even country, marketing has become all the more important.

The problem that a lot of staffing firms face is that the CEO is an ex-recruiter. As a business owner, you tend to focus on the things you know, and perhaps shy away from the things you don’t. As such, most firms put a greater focus on recruiting than they do marketing, despite the ever-increasing importance of the latter.

Recruiters need to become smarketers. The change, however, must begin at the top. Does the CEO understand marketing? If not, do they have an appetite to understand marketing? If the answer remains no, any agents of change will be like pushing waste uphill.

“In staffing the term ‘marketing girl’ still exists, which I hate with a passion” says Darren Westall, founder of staffing marketing tool Paiger. “I speak to too many staffing CEOs who say ‘yes, we’ve got a marketing girl’, which instantly tells me they don’t respect them or trust them to deliver revenue – they’re just there to make things look pretty.”


How COVID laid attitudes bare

When COVID hit, the situation described above was one of two distinct attitudes towards marketing that were revealed. The staffing firms described above saw it as an expense, and furloughed their marketing employees. On the flipside, other firms decided that marketing wasn’t the problem, but rather the solution, and made real investments in order to generate much needed business.

To no one’s surprise, the firms who invested in marketing are the ones who have done far better in the 12 months since.

If your firm hasn’t been active on social media or posted a blog in the last year, a potential customer might (understandably) presume that your organization was a victim of the pandemic. They then go looking for help elsewhere, and find other recruiters and firms who not only maintained their presence, but pushed it even harder.

But it’s a pandemic,’ you might cry, ‘my core clients aren’t even hiring right now!’ But even if that’s the case, posting on LinkedIn, writing blogs, and pushing email campaigns will keep you front of mind, and ensure that you’re the company they call when they are ready to hire again.

Continuing on from his experiences with staffing CEOs and their ‘marketing girls’, Westall adds that the interplay between CEO and marketing department should be built on respect.

“What should be happening is a conversation that says ‘this is our revenue goal this year. What do we need to do to get there? How can you support us? How can our recruiters help?’ Once that mindset shift happens, things start clicking into place.”

Happily staffing leaders are increasingly understanding the importance of marketing, even if they don’t have a background in it. Understanding the scope of the challenge at hand, CEOs are more willing to be educated in it.

They understand that marketing isn’t something you can brute force anymore. You can’t rely on cold calling and door knocking to bring customers in. You need to be smarter, telling good stories and making real investments. You need to do interesting, brand-building things.


Marketing Strategy Guide


Staffing smarketing 101

Once the leaders are on board, it’s up to not just the marketers to drive the business forward. As the faces of a firm, recruiters must do their smarketing bit. And this means treating LinkedIn as more than a place to shoot head-hunting arrows from the shadows.

If you’re a specialist recruiter, you should think of yourself as Jerry McGuire or Ari Gold (although perhaps a more genuine, less slippery version.) You should position yourself as an agent, giving potential clients insight into the job market. Where are the openings? What are these roles paying? In which areas should they upskill? The power of posting a quick video with these tidbits can be surprising. In fact, the lower the production value, the greater the perceived authenticity – slapped together videos do brilliantly on LinkedIn!

People do deep research before making any purchase decision. They Google solutions. They look at reviews. They seek advice from their networks. If you’re a recruiter, positioning yourself as that solution is a matter of putting yourself out there as the best choice, whether that be via industry tips on LinkedIn, a thought-leadership piece on a blog, or by safely bumping sterile fists at a networking event.

Sure, these aren’t as direct an approach as the cold calling of years gone by. In fact this is a distinctly long-term play. But when done well it is endlessly effective, removing the need for cold calling altogether. And there are plenty of tools out there that make all of this surprisingly easy.

At the end of the day, recruiters are salespeople, and they increasingly need to be marketers. They are the personification of ‘smarketing’.

The sooner firms recognize that fact, the sooner they and their teams can make the most of it. 

Check out episode 21 of the You Own the Experience Podcast  to learn more.